For the third time in under two years, councillors have thrown out plans for long-term oil production at the Wressle site near Scunthorpe.
Members of North Lincolnshire’s planning committee again ignored the advice of planning officers and unanimously refused permission.
Egdon’s managing director, Mark Abbott, who made a presentation to the meeting, refused to comment after the decision.
But in a short statement, he said:
“The decision of the Committee, whilst not entirely unexpected, is nonetheless disappointing given that the application had been recommended for approval by North Lincolnshire Council’s own professional planning officer who had the benefit of a positive assessment by specialist independent technical consultants.
“We agree with the conclusion of the planning officer and the independent consultants and strongly believe the new application for the development of the Wressle oil field fully and comprehensively addresses the reasons for the refusal of the original planning applications and the subsequent appeals and therefore intend to appeal this decision without delay.
“We will begin preparing the appeal documentation on receipt of the Committee’s decision notice.”
Shares in Egdon closed the day down nearly 23%.
Opponents of the scheme were jubilant. Several in tears, they congratulated councillors for listening to their concerns about the scheme.
The Conservative-led planning committee had refused previous applications for oil production at Wressle in January 2017 and July 2017. Those refusals were upheld by an inspector at a public inquiry a year ago. The committee also refused permission in August 2018 for an extension of the duration of the consent.
At today’s meeting, Egdon said it had addressed the concerns raised by the inspector about the risk of pollution to groundwater. It said it proposed to redesign the site, add a new liner and had produced new or revised technical documents.
The company said it wanted to produce oil from the site for 15 years, using a range of techniques to stimulate the well. They could have included an acid proppant squeeze, which would have involved injecting hydrofluoric acid under pressure into the rock formation.
Mr Abbott told councillors this was not acid fracking. But opponents drew attention to the environmental permit, which described the operation as “hydraulic fracturing for conventional oil using hydrofluoric acid squeeze”.
After the decision, the local county councillor for Wressle, Holly Mumby-Croft, said:
“I am delighted with the planning committee decision. It was very difficult to see what people were thinking. I think the opponents spoke very eloquently. It is absolutely the right decision.”
Mel Dale, who spoke against the scheme at the meeting, said:
“This is excellent news. We are delighted again that North Lincolnshire Council has been steadfast in their refusal of this project for fossil fuel extraction in the area.”
Another speaker against the scheme, Julie Field, said:
“We are over the moon. Thank you North Lincolnshire Council for seeing this for what it is.”
Opponent Elizabeth Williams, who has spoken all the Wressle applications, told councillors
“We are all worn ragged by this development.”
In tears after the decision, she said:
“Ordinary people are being listened to. The councillors are also doing their own research.
“The era of fossil fuels is over. I would respectfully say to Egdon Resources it is time to divest.”
The planning officer and Egdon Resources had said there were no planning grounds to refuse the application. But councillors lined up to express their concerns about the scheme and the vote was unanimously against.
Conservative David Wells said the risks were not within a tolerance that he could support. Labour’s Mick Grant, said the councillors were not against Egdon or the onshore oil and gas industry. “It’s the way you are going about it”, he said.
The mayor of North Lincolnshire, Cllr John Briggs, said “We cannot ignore the risks involved” and the committee’s vice chair, Cllr John Evison, said: “I can’t really see a lot of benefits to the community”. Cllr Sandra Bainbridge said the committee had a responsibility to listen to local people and act on their behalf.
One speaker at today’s meeting, Jean Turner, said the council’s enforcement officers should now require Egdon to clear the site.
“The inquiry inspector gave the company until April 2018 to restore the site. It has been in breach of that requirement for more than six months. It makes a mockery of the inquiry if the inspector’s conditions are not enforced.”